Saturday, May 28, 2005

Pandan Island, IN Paradise!

Soon as the engine was shut at a few meters from shore, silence fell upon where we were. All we could hear was the mellow sound of lapping little waves on the sand, the gentle wind on the palms, a parrot (or is that parakeet?) that we could hear to be somewhere inside the reception area, and our voices sporadically disturbing the lazy mid-day silence.

No, we did not jump into the waters yet. We were able to control ourselves, really! As we all got off the boat, two ladies and a guy clad in flowery tropical uniforms were by the water’s edge to greet and help us off the boat’s wooden plank and haul our “luggage”. As if we had too many of them luggage anyway! And as we entered the reception area cum bar cum play area of the resort, we were punctually offered welcome drinks – a delectable “iced-tea”!

This was such a big receiving area (bar, restaurant, club-house, whatever) for the few of us visitors who just arrived. And at midday, a very “rural quiet” was the predominant ambiance. I say “rural quiet” when I mean that it is never about to abruptly change into some engines or machines suddenly roaring within any discernable distance from my ears. Oh vacation! All I could hear were birds, crickets, palms/trees swaying to the gentle breeze and the soft rippling of little waves on the white shimmering sand.

As we eagerly sipped on our welcome drinks and took various lazy positions in the vicinity of the bar, the two waitresses graciously asked us if we might want to have lunch and what would our preferred fare be. We said we just had a voracious lunch at that nipa hut restaurant in Sablayan and cannot partake of any more food for now! After affirming how good the food in that restaurant, they courteously excused themselves by leaving word that if we needed them, all we had to do was tell the bartender.

The bartender, oh the bartender! Yes, he was already into deep conversations with us exchanging hellos and asking us about how our trip was to this place, what was our first impression of the place and many more! This bartender is no simple run–of–the–mill bartender. We just thought he was the bartender as he was tending to it when we arrived. We were wrong! This is Jimmy, probably in his late forties to early fifties and we called him Mang Jimmy.

Mang Jimmy, a very friendly guy, we discovered later is not just a bartender. He was/is also cashier, disc-jockey, tour-guide, room boy, game assistant (at the pool tables and darts), story-teller, historian, waiter, concierge AND just actually the Head of Housekeeping! Yes, you heard it! Mang Jimmy is a very unassuming boss of the housekeeping department at this resort who really loves his job. We thought so because he did not mind doing anything for us when he could actually have been barking and ordering his staff for anything.

Oh yes, Mang Jimmy was/is also animal-handler/trainer, boss and friend to a cute, mischievous (many times arrogant) jealous and often over-protective little parrot. Yes a bird! A parrot or any of its cousins! Gosh, I forgot the name of this pesky little thing that even made our lives in Pandan such a delight! Probably the name was “Pikoy” but I remember that is also the name of one of their boats! Was it “bogart” or did I want to call him that? Just the same, fooling and bantering around with this (most of the time, free-roaming) talkative and colourful little bird was just a feast to all of us!

Ah this talkative little bird could say many words as if talking to us! And when we were in conversation with Mang Jimmy, the cute little one would usually butt-in with words that seemed to be aligned with the “human” conversation in progress! I particularly enjoyed “quarrelling” with this noisy little feathered treasure! When I said “gago”, it reacted by repeating the word many times over in various tones and pitches and skilfully ended it with a sarcastic sounding and elongated “paaangeeet”! Of course he/she will repeat the word many times over as if to taunt me! This little dear almost made us forget we were supposed to see and be in the island to experience all the surroundings that it had to offer. Captivating, scene-stealer, damn lovely little bird!

It does not stop there! This feathered colourful being was actually THE ONLY security guard we have seen on the island. Literally!

By advise of Mang Jimmy, we tested the prowess of this interesting being who is just actually a little bit bigger than my fist! We were told that any “non-crew” entering the bar area would be promptly apprehended by this alert little avian character. So test we did! We asked Barry to go inside the bar via the entrance door from behind and just as he emerged into the bar area, the bird started shouting and shrieking on top of its little lungs (as if it was being choked to death) and continuously diving, fluttering and pecking at Barry’s head! My goodness this bird can do more than what dogs usually do in terms of guarding a house or property!

Another test. We would conspicuously attempt to get or lift something (anything actually) from inside the bar by reaching over from where we were seated. First attempt was, I reached for a bottle opener that was placed by Mang Jimmy way inside the bar area. The bird came rushing and shrieking but actually stopped when it noticed I used the thing to open my fresh bottle of SanMigLight! Then Sheila reached over in the act of attempting to get anything from the shelves. Oh this interesting feathery guard came rushing and shrieking and actually pecked at her arm. Very alert and very protective little guard!

So much for the parrot!

Mang Jimmy asked us to choose which kind of cottage we would like to have for our stay. We were told there were family cottages, budget cottages and standard cottages. Further we were given descriptions of each of the cottages e.g., some were flat on the ground, some were a bit elevated like the common Filipino house, some had terraces, some had a second level, etc., etc. Being unsure of what was good for us, Mang Jimmy thought it better that we roamed the area to see the cottages. And roam we did – with him of course as tour guide! Finally we all agreed to get the standard cottage that was a bit elevated from the ground but its terrace was concrete and right on the sand. Oh all those cottages are called bungalows by the way!

We chose the one nearest and to the right of the bar (reception area) which I noticed was referred to by the resort crews as S1.

S1 is a fine cottage good enough for a rustic feel to match or imitate the rural life in the Philippines. First, and this is the part that is not rural, it has such a wide terrace actually covering the entire frontage of the cottage. And the terrace is all made of concrete. The bench-like structures that line the wall of the terrace are all made of concrete and tastefully lined with soft mattresses in colourful tropical colours. It must have been by purpose that the “bench” part are so wide enough that you will be tempted to lie down or slouch or slump in it than just actually sit! And yes, it is scattered with throw pillows, the way a common Filipino home would in their living rooms. So, the effect is a terrace with a lounging-resting-sleeping area good for at least four people of my size (am 6’0” and 180 lbs)! Okay now, then we can call it luxuriously rural! This is my favourite part of the house!

Going inside the cottage you are confronted by what seems to be two outsized bedrooms divided apart by a woven bamboo panel. No doors. The beds in each of the rooms – probably called king size – are big enough to comfortably fit three persons of my size! And these are made of wood with thick mattresses then crowned by large 'mosquiteros' about as big as the beds. Okay for those who are not used to rural life in the Philippines, a 'mosquitero' is a mosquito net that you use to cover your bed so that mosquitoes and other insects won’t disturb your night! These mosquiteros reminded me of my younger years where me and my brothers would usually romp around our beds and inside the mosquiteros!

To the left of the entrance door is another door that leads to the outsized bathroom. Outsized I say since its length is about 4 meters with really nothing in it and the width is about 2 meters. Ironically, the toilet-paper receptacle is quite some distance from the bowl where you have to stand and walk to get to it from your throne! So that is how big and spacious the banyo is! The shower is fine but wheresoever deep down the ground its water came from, it is still salty. Thus, the resort provides a bucketful of fresh non-salty-water imported from the mainland and all guests are requested to conserve it since it takes too much effort and resources to import them fresh water. Of course there is also a pitcher-full of such fresh non-salty water which you can drink or use to brush your teeth. And the pitcher can be replenished anytime a guest wanted. But just the same, everyone is requested not to waste the precious commodity.

Oh there were wicker shelves to put our stuff in, but if you wanted to hang anything to dry, the trees and shrubs outside plus a couple of laundry-lines amongst them were the proper place to do so! Hint: those clothes lines amongst the trees posed a bit of hazard for us the unfamiliar. So what we did was to make sure a towel or shirt was always hanging on them wire lines just so we could have a reference point for us to not to accidentally cut our throats as we walked by hahaha!

Let's go around the island next, shall we?!

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